I've read several articles recently about various remote control tools such as AT&T Laboratories Cambridge's Virtual Network Computing (VNC) and Symantec's pcAnywhere. However, I haven't seen much information about the little-known, superior, and—just as important—free Microsoft NetMeeting tool.

My company has used NetMeeting for the past 2 years. This tool offers many remote administration benefits. NetMeeting's downloadable 3.01 Service Pack 2 (SP2) client works with Windows NT, Windows Me, and Windows 9x. Windows 2000 has the NetMeeting client built in. NetMeeting is more secure than VNC because NetMeeting incorporates Windows authentication by using workgroup or domain credentials and has the capability of using secure encryption. Security encryption settings are individually selectable for incoming and outgoing connections. The tool also supports certificate services or can use a built-in certificate. Finally, NetMeeting is more stable than other remote control applications. NetMeeting is small, works well over low-speed connections, and rarely crashes.

To set up NetMeeting, you need to install the software on the server and client. On an NT server, load the NetMeeting 3.01 SP2 software (available at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/netmeeting/default.asp). No installation is necessary on a Win2K server. To start the tool, go to the Run command or a command prompt and enter

conf.exe

Run through the registration wizard. On the next screen, clear the option to log on to Microsoft's directory and select the option to exclude your information from the directory. Under Tools, Options, click the Security tab and select the option to use secure incoming and outgoing connections. Under Certificate, select Use Privacy; if using Certificate Services, supply the appropriate certificate location. On the Video tab, move the slider to Better Performance. If the video is unacceptable, move the slider over—but keep in mind that the performance might suffer. On the Tools menu, select Remote Desktop Sharing. The program might prompt you to install additional files to support the RDP option. If so, the program might also prompt you to reboot. After rebooting, select Tools, Remote Desktop Sharing, then select the Enable Remote Desktop Sharing check box. Close the main NetMeeting window. In the system tray, right-click the NetMeeting icon and select Activate Remote Desktop Sharing. After you enable this option, you can activate or deactivate NetMeeting without disturbing the installation.

To install NetMeeting on a Windows client, follow the server instructions to load, start, and register the software and to configure the Microsoft directory, security, and video options. After you start the NetMeeting client, a connection box will appear. In the drop-down box near the top of the connection box window, enter the IP address (or resolvable name) of the server you want to connect to. Click the Phone icon. (The red arrow icon is for disconnecting the session.) In the logon box that appears, enter an account name, password, and domain or workgroup that has access to the server. After you connect, you'll need to reenter the credentials. Entering the credentials the first time establishes the connection; entering the credentials the second time logs you on to the server. To make the logon box appear, select the Send Ctrl+Alt+Delete option from the Control menu at the top of the Remote window. You should now be connected to the server as if connected locally.

NetMeeting is a good solution for servers that lack terminal services, such as most NT servers. The tool is free, is lightweight, and includes security options that will satisfy most administrators. You might need to adjust your firewall rules to allow specific ports, depending on which features you want to have available while connected. For more information about configuring NetMeeting to work properly through a firewall, see the Microsoft article "How to Establish NetMeeting Connections Through a Firewall" (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=158623).